Review – Locke

On paper not the most enticing or exciting of prospects, it says a lot about the powerhouse performance of its sole operator that Locke is such an impressive feature.

The film's visual signature is understandably sparse (there's only so many ways you can film the inside of a car) but that only serves to focus attention further on one of the performances of the year. Locke is a long dark night of the soul you won't forget

The film’s visual signature is understandably sparse (there’s only so many ways you can film the inside of a car) but that only serves to focus attention further on one of the performances of the year. Locke is a long dark night of the soul you won’t forget

In recent years we’ve seen a growing number of experimental films based solely within a single location; movies that offer a welcome divergence from what is normally drip fed via the studios.

Standouts include the excellent Rodrigo Cortés nail-biter Buried (2010), the little seen psychological thriller Exam (2009) and zombie movie Pontypool (2008) and Steven Knight’s claustrophobic road movie is a strong addition to this micro-genre.

In the case of Locke, the restrictions it places on itself are particularly constraining. Its singular location is a BMW car being driven by construction foreman Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), whose decision one evening to drive to London from Birmingham has far-reaching consequences not only on his professional career but also his marriage and family.

A long dark night of the soul awaits Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) in Locke

A long dark night of the soul awaits Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) in Locke

As Ivan makes his fateful drive, we see the consequences of his actions play out through the increasingly fraught telephone conversations he has with wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson), son Eddie (Tom Holland), work colleague Donal (Andrew Scott) and boss Gareth (Ben Daniels); as well as with another woman Bethan (Oliva Colman). Never has the cooly automated message “you have a call waiting” had such charged overtones.

It’s no surprise Hardy jumped at the chance to flex his acting muscles following a number of physically intimidating turns in the likes of The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Warrior (2011) and he delivers a bravura performance of a man whose methodical existence is ripped asunder as the pressure mounts.

Tom Hardy gives a mesmerising performance in the central role of Locke

Tom Hardy gives a mesmerising performance in the central role of Locke

Shot in real-time, Hardy visibly ages and deteriorates. Even his body works against him as the effects of a cold virus take hold. Hardy’s Welsh accent and tightly coiled stoicism brings to mind early Richard Burton and it’s a testament to the strength of his presence on screen that the comparison is entirely appropriate.

Such a performance therefore doesn’t need a script that can’t help trowelling on the metaphor. We learn very early on that concrete plays a big part of Locke’s life and Knight doesn’t shy away from laying on the symbolism as the foundations begin to crumble under his character’s feet.

The foundations begin to crumble in Locke

The foundations begin to crumble in Locke

By using the wrong concrete, Locke informs Donal, “cracks appear and they will grow and grow until they collapse”.  And as if we haven’t deduced the analogy, he goes to say: “You make one little mistake and the whole world comes crashing down around you.”

As the walls close in, Locke’s fractured psyche reveals itself through one-way conversations he has with his neglectful dad through the rear view mirror. He’s determined not to repeat the sins of the father, but events seem to suggest otherwise and, tellingly, he subconsciously looks into the same mirror as he talks to his son.

The film’s visual signature is understandably sparse (there’s only so many ways you can film the inside of a car), but that only serves to focus attention further on one of the performances of the year. Locke is a long dark night of the soul you won’t forget.

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33 comments

  1. Joseph@thecinemamonster · September 1, 2014

    Excellent review for an excellent film, my friend :).

    • Three Rows Back · September 1, 2014

      Ah, thanks very much Joseph. Your comments are always appreciated.

  2. Robert · September 1, 2014

    Can’t wait to catch this one. Great job

  3. Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop · September 2, 2014

    Great review sir. An absolutely fascinating movie, one that I couldn’t take my eyes off. Hardy hopefully proving to a lot of people he has the acting skills as well as the muscle.

    • Three Rows Back · September 2, 2014

      Thank you sir! Hardy gives the performance of his career so far; never thought he had it in him.

  4. Helena · September 2, 2014

    Great review. “Locke” is on my watchlist, if only I had the time to see all the movies I want… Your opinion about the film made me want to see it more. I’m becoming a fan of Hardy, “The Drop” is on my list as well.

    • Three Rows Back · September 2, 2014

      Thanks Helena. Yeah I know; too many movies, too little time.

  5. Tyson Carter · September 2, 2014

    I love Hardy, but his accent was slightly offputting…..maybe just me but I was a little…..bored?

    • Three Rows Back · September 2, 2014

      Bored?! Tyson you disappoint me!

      • Tyson Carter · September 3, 2014

        Not exactly thrilling is if?! Concrete FFS!!! 🙂

      • Three Rows Back · September 3, 2014

        Nothing wrong with a strong concrete metaphor!

  6. theipc · September 2, 2014

    Are you saying this is “like” Pontypool but without the undead? I LOVE Pontypool….

    • Three Rows Back · September 2, 2014

      That’s right. Locke has no walking dead. More’s the pity.

  7. Stu · September 2, 2014

    Keen to see this, and it’s a very good review mate. I’m really intrigued by the premise and Hardy’s performance. I liked Buried but haven’t seen the other two you mention – worth a look?

  8. CMrok93 · September 2, 2014

    Hardy makes this movie something worth watching. He’s riveting just about every second and makes you guess just what he’s going to do next, why and how. Good review.

  9. Gene · September 3, 2014

    Terrific review, I’m very eager to see this. You made a great point about Hardy’s physical prowess in Dark Knight and Warrior, I’m anxious to see more of a demand on his acting.

    • Three Rows Back · September 3, 2014

      Me too. I do have a lot of time for Hardy. Thanks for the feedback 🙂

  10. ruth · September 3, 2014

    My colleague just saw this and she was just telling me this morning how much she loved it. Great review Mark, I definitely dug this, it’s on my top 10 of the year so far. I like your last line there… “Locke is a long dark night of the soul you won’t forget.” Yep, indeed.

    • Three Rows Back · September 3, 2014

      Muchos gracias Ruth! It’s certainly high up the list.

  11. Tom · September 6, 2014

    “He’s determined not to repeat the sins of the father, but events seem to suggest otherwise and, tellingly, he subconsciously looks into the same mirror as he talks to his son.” < — that just blew my mind. I didn't even catch on to this when watching! Mark you're attention to detail is as impressive as its ever been here. This simple observation just galvanized Locke as possibly my favorite film of the year.

    • Three Rows Back · September 6, 2014

      Favourite film of the year? Not for me but certainly top 10 I reckon. I’m very pleased that you think so highly of the film; it deserves the attention although I doubt Hardy will be recognised come awards season. Thanks a million for those very kind words my friend; your reviews are just as good in my book mate!

      • Tom · September 6, 2014

        Favorite of the year might be a bit sensational at this point, yes. hahah. But I’m not entirely sure I want to crop it out of my top five right now. It was stellar, given the limited space, time and circumstances. Just a genius bit of film.

  12. chris2508 · September 7, 2014

    Brilliant review. I thought this was a superb film, I too enjoyed the symbolism.

  13. Dan · September 18, 2014

    This is the sort of role that will prove Hardy’s acting credentials if his previous performances haven’t already. A terrific turn and a very gripping film.

  14. table9mutant · September 21, 2014

    Great review – I’ll definitely be checking this one out. 🙂

  15. Writer Loves Movies · September 26, 2014

    Easily one of my top five films this year. Such a quality performance from Hardy and an excellent script that proves thrillers don’t need elaborate plots to make powerful viewing. Great review.

    • Three Rows Back · September 30, 2014

      Yeah, it’s right up there for me also. Hardy is a class act. Thanks for the feedback.

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